[env-trinity] NewsReview 8 19 10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Aug 20 13:24:33 PDT 2010
ILLUSTRATION BY CHAD CROWE
Proposition 18's off the ballot, but the governor's stealth water plan moves
By Burt Wilson
In a surprise announcement at the end of June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
revealed that he had asked the state Legislature to yank his coveted water
bond, Proposition 18, off the November ballot and reposition it for the 2012
elections. Last week, the Legislature gave him exactly what he wanted.
If this leaves you wondering why the governor would abandon the bill he
thought would be his greatest gubernatorial victory-a wholesale revision of
the California Water Plan-you're not alone. Such a massive revision was
supposed to be Arnold's supreme political legacy.
Was it really too costly in this era of debt and deficits? Was the presence
of too much pork a reason to kill it? Did the governor fear it would be
rejected at the polls and cost him some prestige?
No, no and no again. I believe the water bond was pulled because the
governor figured out a better way to get a through-Delta-water conveyance
system that would do the job the water bill was designed to do, but without
all the water bill headaches! In short, here is the outline of Arnold's
secret plan to raid Northern California water and send it south.
Most Californians never did understand the water bond completely, because it
was so disingenuously promoted to the public. The deception began with the
formation of the governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force Delta Vision Committee in
2006, which defined and framed the issue as establishing what the group
conceived as "co-equal goals" to "restore the Delta ecosystem" and "maintain
a reliable water supply." It was hard for anyone to argue with that.
To the casual observer, these co-equal goals seemed to be a harbinger of
good water policy in the works, but far from being co-equal, the dual goals
were actually mutually exclusive. In fact, the goals cancel each other out
because taking more water from the Delta-to "maintain a reliable water
supply" was meant for the entire state! And any more water sent to Southern
California would destroy the ecosystem, not save it.
Was the committee really just about creating a smoke screen for a water
grab? The answer lies in the machinations of that great hidden force in
California politics, the California Business Roundtable. The roundtable
foresees a population growth of 20 million new people for California in the
next 20 years. Where will they go? Most of them will end up in Southern
The CBR and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a major
force in the political maneuvering for more water, envision this gigantic
influx of people to be a boon to future economic development in the
But only if they can get more water.
The MWD lost its Colorado River water allotment in 2003 and, ever since, has
been looking to the north to supply it with more of California's liquid
gold. Long known for its water grab in the Owens Valley, the MWD can't get
any more water from the north without a wholesale revision in the California
Water Plan, principally one that mandates the equal distribution of
California's water resources over the whole state which, of course, would
mean diverting more Northern California water south.
The Freeport Regional Water Project facility on the Sacramento River boasts
state-of-the-art fish screens and eight pumps that can divert 185 million
gallons of river water a day.
The governor's stealth plan began with the newly created Delta Stewardship
Council, led by the crafty Blue Ribbon Delta Vision chair and former
Sacramento mayor and state legislator, Phil Isenberg. (Throughout the entire
committee process, Isenberg never brought up his conflict-of-interest
involvement as a lobbyist for the Irvine Ranch Water District in Southern
The council was created with the passage of Senate Bill 1 by the state
Legislature. Its creation did not have to go to a public vote and only
required a majority legislative vote, which it got. Even though the use of
Delta contributes an aura of localness, its website says its members have a
"broad statewide perspective" on water issues. This ties in neatly with the
fact that the DSC is empowered to veto or approve anything proposed by the
more than 400 water agencies scattered throughout California.
In short, Isenberg was made, literally, California's water czar-calling the
shots for the governor.
The existence of the secret plan surfaced this year, innocently enough, on
April 7, with the opening of a new water intake at the Freeport Regional
Water Project facility on the Sacramento River at Freeport. This facility,
complete with state-of-the-art fish screens, has eight pumps that are able
to divert 185 million gallons of Sacramento River water a day into a
tunnel-now under construction-which would eventually serve the Sacramento
County Water Agency and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
At the opening ceremonies, plans were also revealed for five more intake
facilities to be built along the Sacramento River from Clarksburg to
Courtland. These intakes would handle even more capacity than the Freeport
facility. Additionally, plans call for these intakes to be connected to a
tunnel which would carry the water south to the Clifton Court Forebay, where
it would be pumped south via the California Aqueduct system.
The professed theory behind this move is supposedly to establish a new Delta
diversion point that would supplant the Clifton Court Forebay. But it's
really a new through-Delta conveyance system to feed water diverted from the
five Sacramento River intakes directly into the Forebay, circumventing the
violent sucking action of the two 40-foot pumps there that not only kill
fish, but cause the rivers to run backwards, ravaging the levees.
Evidently, Arnold hopes that by showing compassion for the fish (which,
incidentally, is the mandate of a federal judge) people will ignore the fact
that he's diverting more water south.
Plans to carry out this scenario include three possible methods to convey
the water south from the Sacramento River intake facilities. The middle
conveyance route is a deep tunnel running from the Courtland area straight
down to the Clifton Court Forebay, where water gets pumped south.
So, to repeat, what we have here is the prospect of a through-Delta water
conveyance system that would not require passage of the water bond itself!
Its purpose would be to fuel the future economic growth of Southern
California-an effort that will require almost double the water the MWD is
getting now. Without the water, nothing can be built because all of the
developers there have to assure the state of an adequate water supply in
order to start any construction. This is why developers and construction
companies were the largest backers of the water bill!
The big question, of course, is: Where will the money for the tunnel and the
intakes come from?
This is where Arnold gets really creative. The governor has expressed
privately that the authority for building such a conveyance infrastructure
and the money to pay for can simply be appropriated by law due to the
passage of the Burns-Porter Act in 1960-yes, 1960-which created the original
California Water Plan.
Section 12201 of the updated state water code reads, "The Legislature finds
that the maintenance of an adequate water supply in the Delta sufficient to
maintain and expand agriculture, industry, urban and recreational
development in the Delta area . and to provide a common source of fresh
water for export to areas of water deficiency is necessary to the peace,
health, safety and welfare of the people of the State."
This document gives the governor the authority to provide facilities to send
more Northern California water south because the state water code is state
law and is, therefore, seen as a mandate for state funds. As for the money,
it can be simply appropriated from the state budget or taken from the
billions already set apart for improvements but so far left unspent-the
public be damned.
Ultimately, the governor's stealth plan should be revealed for what it is.
Sending more water downstate to Southern California carries huge risks for
Sacramento and Northern California's environment. Better the Delta
Stewardship Council heed the prophetic words of philosopher Henry George,
who said, "Taking water from where it is needed and sending it to where it
is scarce is simply bad water policy."
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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